Night Work by Thomas Glavinic (Shane's book 28, 2008)

This could probably be described as a high concept novel: Jonas, an Austrian man, wakes up one morning to find that everyone else has disappeared. That's pretty much it. Thomas Glavinic spends the novel exploring how Jonas deals with his sudden isolation, rather than focusing on the mystery of what happened to the rest of the world. After trying to contact another human being, searching Vienna and the villages and towns around it, Jonas occupies himself with various strange tasks. He begins recreating his childhood home, he sets up cameras around the city and films himself driving a one-man grand prix and he plots a trip to Scotland, where his girlfriend was holidaying at the time when everyone disappeared.

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But something strange is happening. He finds himself waking up in a different place from where he went to sleep, for example. So he turns the cameras on his nighttime self and discovers The Sleeper, a sinister version of himself who spends the night doing bizarre and menacing things.

The scenes when Jonas watches the tapes of the previous night are genuinely creepy but other parts of the book are less successful. The world in which Jonas finds himself is not entirely convincing. The electricity stays on, for example, which seems unlikely in the absence of anyone to run power stations, generators and the like.

It's also slightly frustrating that Glavinic is not concerned with explaining the disappearance of every human being. The book is structured like a mystery but there are few answers to be had.

Night Work is an intriguing and occasionally disturbing read. It works best as an exploration of the need all humans have for companionship but it's not without its flaws.